Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Bodyguard - A New Musical

Adelphi Theatre, London


Based on the Warner Bros. Film
Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan
Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Directed by Thea Sharrock

Mark Letheren as Rachel Marron's stalker

The Bodyguard at London’s Adelphi Theatre has been around for almost three months and played this week to a reassuringly packed house on a wintry Thursday night. Alexander Dinelarishas has taken Lawrence Kasdan’s twenty year old screenplay that was embellished with the starring roles of singer Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner as the gun hired to protect her and filleted it down to a staged tale, taking not only a few (modest) liberties with the storyline but also cannily identifying moments along his story’s journey to liberally add in Houston’s hits at any available opportunity. And do you know what? It's a little corny, but it works!
The story broadly follows fictional singer Rachel Marron and her family and entourage and how following the receipt of crazed threats, a skilled bodyguard is hired for the close protection of the star. Any more detail would spoil a good show. If you know the film, expect a few surprises and if you are new to the tale then expect an entertaining ride with a few thrills and spills and the occasional tear too.
The American actress Heather Headley is headlined as starring as Marron. Not so well known in the UK, her Broadway credentials are impeccable. However, it was with a little initial (and short lived) disappointment that we learned that Gloria Onitiri was to take the lead at the performance reviewed here. The cast list states Onitiri as an Ensemble member, yet her detailed bio in the programme describes her as Alternate Rachel Marron. We subsequently learned that she regularly covers for Headley in what is clearly a demanding role. Note to producers : If you regularly have an alternate playing a lead role, then do what Phantom Of The Opera have done for the last 25 years and own up to the fact on your posters and publicity. The honesty does you no harm. Rant over, back to the talent.
Onitiri is quite frankly an unexpected diamond in a glittering show. Her take on Houston’s hits that are sung exquisitely. She was all of rock star, diva, mom and woman-in-love, performed with a gorgeous sound. Her climactic number, Houston's signature hit I Will Always Love You that is an absolute roller-coaster of a song soaring from intimate to epic, was spine tingling. Lloyd Owen as bodyguard Frank Farmer is a turn that is strong and credible. The professional demands of his character demand modest understatement and a performance that is mostly sardonic and laconic. Farmer is allocated few songs in the show (a wise call as a singing bodyguard could well send an audience’s suspended disbelief crashing to the ground) but his rare tuneful moment raises a knowing smile amongst an audience familiar with the tale. The other stunning chanteuse of the night is Debbie Kurup, playing Marron’s sister Nicki. Her delivery of Saving All My Love is exquisite and when she duets with Onitiri, the close harmony work is West End vocal perfection.
Thea Sharrock directs on Tim Hatley’s imaginatively designed set. I suspect the producers have not only an eye on a Broadway opening for the show, but Vegas too, as the classic hits, glitzy sets and not too demanding storyline, will go down well in Nevada’s Sin City. Richard Beadle’s band deliver a very polished and authentic sound ( the delicate guitar lead in to I Will Always Love You was a joy) and for a night of top production values in song and dance, The Bodyguard is another shining example of what makes London the theatre capital of the world.

Booking until September 2013

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